B170 Craigantlet Crossroads Upgrade

 

Status
Construction scheme (future)
Where
To provide either one or two roundabouts to replace priority junctions at the busy "Craigantlet Crossroads" to the north-east of Belfast.
Total Length
c300 metres + 2 roundabouts OR c500 metres + 1 roundabout, depending on option chosen
Dates

Has been mooted for many years
Planning application due to be submitted "Autumn 2011"

Initial proposals revealed at public meeting - March 2012

Construction possibly "within 2 years" - as of Apr 2013
Public consultation - 21 and 23 Jan 2014
Preferred option expected - Sometime in 2015

Cost
2.25m to over 3m depending on option chosen - as of Jan 2014
(changed from
2.25m - as of Sep 2012; changed from 2.1m - as of Oct 201)
Photos/Maps
See below
See Also

General Area Map - Google Maps

"Craigantlet" is the name commonly given to the area of hills that sits in the rectangle bounded by Holywood (NW), Bangor (NE), Belfast (SW), Dundonald (S) and Newtownards (SE). Although rural in character the roads attract huge volumes of commuter traffic displaced from the surrounding road network by peak time congestion. Many of the roads, especially those that form part of the most heavily-trafficked B170, converge at two junctions which lie around 300 metres apart in the middle of the hills - known locally as "Craigantlet Crossroads". The presence of a quarry nearby, as well as lorries attempting to avoid congestion, leads to quite a high volume of HGV traffic for a road of this type. This all creates heavy congestion, tailbacks and relatively frequent accidents.

This scheme will improve safety at the junction by upgrading two junctions - the Ballymiscaw Road/Whinny Hill T-junction and the Whinney Hill / Craigantlet Road / Dunlady Road / Holywood Road staggered crossroads. In addition, by regulating the traffic at these points it should allow more efficent traffic flow. This Google Maps image shows the location:


The map below was given to members of the public by Roads Service in early March 2012 and showed the proposals as they then stood. It consists of two roundabouts, and the widening of about 300 metres of Whinney Hill to four lane single-carriageway standard, between the two roundabouts:

Map of
                          Craigantlet roundabout proposals as of March
                          2012

After the initial public consultation, DRD investigated six further options, two of which were developed further. So as of January 2014 we still have the above proposal - now called Option 2A. Option 2B is a very similar design except that the four-lane link road has been reduced in width to three lanes. Option 3 was suggested by local residents and diverts all the roads to a single location which would meet at an even larger roundabout. Option 3 is more expensive at over 3m. Options 2A and 2B are between 2m and 2.5m.

Option 2B, which was unveiled to the public on 21 January 2014. It features a narrower link road [DRD Roads Service].


Option 3, which was unveiled to the public on 21 January 2014. It features a larger roundabout and all local roads diverted to one location. The Ballymiscaw Road/Whinney Hill T-junction would be unmodified in this proposal. [DRD Roads Service].

Updates

3 May 2015: In the previous update (below) I quoted the DRD Minister as saying he hoped to announce the preferred scheme later in 2014. This did not happen. However, it does seem that the DRD is planning on submitting a planning application soon since I believe pre-application discussions are now underway with Ards and North Down Borough Council (who took over planning responsibility for this area on 1 April 2015). You may recall that the DRD's initial proposal was for two roundabouts connected by an upgraded stretch of Whinney Hill (see Option 2B above). Many local residents did not like this and suggested an alternative scheme involving a single large roundabout and a diversion of Ballymiscaw Road, which the DRD developed as Option 3 (above). From what I hear, the DRD seem to have now settled on Option 3 - the single large roundabout - as their preference, although this has not been publicly stated. This design would be more costly as it's more ambitious in terms of the engineering required, but would have the advantage of having more widespread local support and not requiring any of these sensitive rural roads to be widened to three or four lanes, which was a criticism of Option 2B.

13 Oct 2014: According to a Question for Written Answer in the Assembly the public consultation event in January (see previous update) generated a lot of interest. At this event three options were shown to the public. The Minister said "Officials have prepared a report on the consultation, which I will consider in detail before committing to a decision." The question specifically asked about timescale, and he said that "I hope to be in a position to announce details of the preferred scheme later this year". So I would take that to mean that we can expect some kind of announcement, probably the selection of a "preferred option", before Christmas.

22 Jan 2014: I attended the first public consultation event yesterday, although there is a second one on Thursday 23 January (see previous update below). Three options were on display. Unfortunately DRD did not provide any leaflets showing the options that visitors could take away with them, nor is the material online. I was told that it will be placed here on the Planning Portal (under "Associated Documents") "in the near future". So all I have for now are photographs I took with my phone, and I have included them further up this page. The DRD representative told me that they examined seven alternative options, including the original option publicised in 2012 which would have seen two roundabouts connected by a four-lane single-carriageway link road. They have taken three of these seven options forward for further consideration. The original 2012 option has survived and is now called "Option 2A". After criticism that the four-lane link road was out of scale and inappropriate in this sensitive rural setting, they have introduced a second option called "Option 2B". It is more or less the same as 2A, except that the link road has been reduce in width to three lanes. The middle lane would switch directions half way along to become a second lane on the approach to the roundabouts at either end. The cost of this option is more or less the same as Option 2A, but it would be slightly worse in terms of traffic flow (ie, it will be at capacity sooner, queues are more likely to develop on the roundabout approaches, and average speed through the junctions will be lower). However the scoring system they have used suggests to me that the difference would not be that noticeable to the average driver. The third option was one suggested by local residents. It involves diverting all the roads in the vicinity to a single location at the existing crossroads, and linking them by a very large roundabout. This option is more expensive (over 3m compared to 2m-2.5m for Options 2A and 2B) and would involve very substantial earthworks since the land would have to be built up quite far to create a flat surface for the roundabout on this sloping site. Photos of Option 2B and Option 3 are included further up this page. Option 2A is the same as the 2012 option, also visible above. The consultation was well attended and hopefully the DRD will be able to make some headway in finding a solution that is feasible, effective and acceptable in this location.

7 Jan 2014: As anticipated in the previous update, a second public consultation about what is proposed will take place as follows:

  • Craigantlet Orange Hall, Holywood Road, Craigantlet, Tuesday 21 January 2014 (4:30pm 9pm).
  • Bangor Library, Hamilton Road, Bangor, Thursday 23 January 2014 (4:30 9pm).

After this ends, the plans will remain on display at Bangor Library until 31 January (but without Roads Service people being present to ask questions). Consultations like this are a key opportunity for anyone with an interest in the scheme to come along and express their opinions and ask questions. It will be interesting to see if and how the proposals differ from those which were published in March 2012 which comprised two roundabouts connected by a four-lane link road. However, the wording of the press release suggests that there will be more than one option on display which implies that the scheme has been developed further than was the case back in 2012.

8 Dec 2013: The DRD Minister was asked for an update on this scheme in the Assembly on 18 November. After the initial 'public consultation' in March 2012 there was a lot of vocal opposition locally to what was proposed, mainly on account of the significantly larger scale of the upgraded road, so the DRD Minister promised to revisit the design. This review included taking into account alternatives proposed by some of the residents (see update on 25 Mar 2013 below). This Minister has now said that "We are reflecting on [the comments by residents], and we hope that, at some stage, most likely early in the new year, there will be a public consultation. There still seems to be a difference of opinion about which option we should choose." So we are likely going to see some further proposals from the DRD early in 2014. His final comment is code for "lots of people still disagree with what we're proposing" so we shall have to wait and see what is proposed this time round.

8 May 2013: In the last update 6 weeks ago I quoted the minister as saying that Roads Service's analysis of the alternative options put forward by local residents would be completed by the end of April. In a question and answer session in Stormont on 30th April, the Minister stated that the review "should be completed within the coming weeks" but that "Further public consultation will be needed so that the planning process can be concluded." He then added that "There is a prospect that the scheme will proceed to the construction stage within two years, but it may take longer." It is difficult to know how seriously to take this timescale because many road schemes have a "prospect" of proceeding soon, but not many actually will, primarily due to lack of money. Still, it is a date to note.

25 Mar 2013: In another Question for Written Answer in Stormont from last week, the Minister has revealed that there has been some time slippage in their analysis of the options put forward by residents around this busy junction (see previous update). The Minister explained "Whilst it was initially anticipated this study would have been completed by the end of January, additional field and design work was required to assess additional proposals put forward by the local residents during the intervening period. It is now expected this study will be completed by the end of April 2013 and I can confirm that no decisions relating to the proposed scheme will be taken until the outcome of this study is known." Again, these comments do not say anything about when we can expect a further announcement, merely saying that the assessment of the alternative options should be completed by April.

8 Jan 2013: A Question for Written Answer just before Christmas revealed that "a number of alternative options for a road improvement scheme in Craigantlet were put forward by residents. These options are currently being assessed by consultants, and this work should be completed by the end of January 2013". This presumably means that after all the fuss last April, local residents have come up with alternative suggestions that Roads Service are now assessing. Roads Service will presumably be assessing these suggestions against their traffic models and the guidelines set down in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (the holy book of road construction), so any comments they make will likely refer to things like the technical feasibility, safety and likely effectiveness of the proposals. The comments do not say anything about when we can expect a further announcement, merely saying that the assessment of the alternative options should be completed this month.

15 Oct 2012: A pair of Questions for Written Answer at the end of September gave some more information about this scheme. Firstly, the estimated cost is currently 2.25m, which breaks down as:

  • 1.89m for construction
  • 290k for alternations to utilities
  • 70k for land

The answers also clarify, that the options considered for the scheme included:

  • the provision of a new through route from the Ballysallagh Rd/Craigantlet Rd, through agricultural land to the back of the Craiganlet cottages, onto the Ballymiscaw Rd;
  • the provision of a roundabout at each of these two junctions, with two lanes running between the junctions;
  • the provision of a roundabout at each of these two junctions, with three lanes running between the junctions;
  • the provision of a roundabout at each of these two junctions, with four lanes running between the junctions (the option chosen); and
  • the provision of traffic signals (full time or part time).

However, given recent adverse publicity, the Minister said "I have asked officials to give serious consideration to alternative layouts suggested by local residents that would have less impact on the Craigantlet cottages, and I will consider the outcome of this work before making any decision on the way forward".

30 July 2012: I have discovered that the Planning Service web site contains numerous documents related to this project, including a full report into the plans, and a whole series of maps (click here and then click on "Associated Documents"). The site also contains a list of all the objections received to date, and a petition. There is a lot of material here to digest. Happy delving!

22 Apr 2012: The planning application for this scheme was apparently submitted to North Down Borough Council as planned a few months ago. Meanwhile, a public meeting was organised by a local MLA a few weeks ago, at which Roads Service revealed their current proposals for these two junctions. This included a map which is reproduced above. It suggests that the proposed upgrade consists of:

  • A conventional four-arm roundabout at the Whinney Hill / Craigantlet Road junction.
  • A conventional three-arm roundabout at the Whinney Hill / Ballymiscaw Road junction.
  • New footways along the roads.
  • Widening 300 metres of Whinney Hill between the two roundabouts to four-lane single-carriageway standard, ie two lanes each way separated by a dotted line.
  • Restricting movements at the Whinney Hill / Ballymoney Road junction to left-in/left-out only.

The first two are unsurprising, but the last two were unexpected and have attracted much negative publicity in the local area. Although the description of the proposed road as a "dual-carriageway" is quite wrong, the underlying point seems to be that local residents feel the widened section of road would be inappropriate for this location. They may well have a point - while traffic congestion here is bad, the roundabouts ought to resolve almost all the safety issues and help congestion considerably. It is hard to see how maintaining the current two lanes on Whinney Hill would have much negative impact on this, and it would certainly be more appropriate to such a sensitive rural setting.

Roads Service are said to have ruled out traffic signals as being "not in keeping with the area". Some of the residents have asked why traffic signals are inappropriate when a roundabout is appropriate. The answer is that Roads Service mean "inappropriate" from a road safety perspective, not as a comment on how they look. Traffic signals are almost never found on rural roads, and hence they have great potential to surprise drivers unfamiliar with the area, and are hence regarded as dangerous in rural settings. Roads Service are correct to say that traffic signals would not be appropriate here. With thanks to Andrew McCullough.

30 Oct 2011: According to a Question for Written Answer in the Assembly three weeks ago, a planning application for this scheme is due to be submitted "in the Autumn", and the cost is given as 2.1m. Much of this cost is likely to be land acquisition, but the fact that we're at a planning application stage suggests that acquiring the land is unlikely to be an issue. 2.1m is also too high to call this a "minor" road improvement scheme. The Minister concludes by noting that this scheme "remains a high priority for Roads Service". Basically there is no immediate plan to build these two roundabouts, but the wording suggests it has a higher chance than some others of going ahead before too long.